You are probably unfamiliar with the name FIA Card Services, but it is among the largest issuers of credit cards in the world. But bigger isn’t always better.
Do you have a Bank of America credit card? If so, you probably have an FIA credit card – they are Bank of America’s wholly-owned subsidiary for credit cards. It seems kind of deliberately misleading for them to come up with some meaningless and mysterious set of letters that don’t actually stand for anything rather than just simply branding the company “Bank of America Credit Cards, Inc. or something like that. It’s probably a result of Bank of America’s acquisition of another mysterious set of letters about ten years ago – MBNA. At least those letters stood for something (Maryland Bank National Association). They were probably the originators of the FIA sub-brand. Many regional banks and retailers apparently outsource their credit cards to FIA Card Services. So even if you don’t knowingly have a Bank of America credit card there is a good chance you carry one of their FIA-branded cards.
Not every FIA card is a bad deal, mind you. However, many have qualities which are not so appealing, to put it nicely. Here’s are the biggest complaints heard on the forum:
Complaint #1: Sneaky rewards program
A good number of them use WorldPoints, which offer a substandard redemption value when exchanging a lower amount of points.
For example, if you redeem 2,500 points you would probably expect to get 1 cent per point and hence, a $25 value, right? Well with the WorldPoints program you would only get half that – $12.50. That’s quite a haircut. The conversion does get better the higher up you go, but it takes at least 25,000 points to get $0.01 worth per point.
Complaint #2: Feeling lost in the herd
Many rant about the customer support – or lack thereof – from FIA credit card services. If all these comments were discussed this post would be longer than Encyclopedia Britannica. However to sum it up, a number of people say that the customer service is less than accommodating. For example, requests for a one-time waived late fee, lower interest rate, etc. may experience a deaf ear.
That being said, over the past couple years many have reported an improvement when it comes to the FIA Card Services Bank of America division. Since the beginning of the year quite a few have noted being greeted promptly by a US-based customer service representative who seemed to be well trained/knowledgable.
Complaint #3: No free lunch
It’s not that the interest rates or signup offers are exorbitantly high, but rather they are just middle of the road.
The highest cash offer recently seen to apply for a Bank of America card is only $100 and that was a “special invitation” or so they say. If you go on the Bank of America website you will see the bonus on a given card (and that’s if there even is a bonus) will typically be only $50.
The balance transfer offers are also a nothing to write home about. Getting 12 months at 0% isn’t “bad” but it’s doesn’t even compare to the 18 month offers you see from other major issuers.
Complaint #4: “A rather antiquated website”
When you login to manage your account, don’t expect anything amazing. For example here’s a recent forum comment from JenB to give you an idea why the website is not exactly an award winner:
“Back to the lameness of the website. You cannot set up any alerts on the FIA Card Services site. You cannot e-mail messages to them. You have to call and go through a BUNCH of prompts before you can ever speak to a live person – and then you get someone with a heavy accent.”
On the other hand, the website is usually uncluttered and free of ads, which is a positive that’s worth pointing out.
Complaint #5: Alleged unauthorized credit card payments
Have a bank account with money in it, but not paying your credit card bill? Well according to some allegations, payments have been involuntarily made in some circumstances.
On Debt Consolidation Care there is an article (followed by many comments) which allege “FIA is reported to have taken out money from consumer accounts without their authorization.” What follows are stories/comments which claim FIA Card Services tapped a customer’s bank account to pay off their credit card bill without their consent.
That being said, the majority of these complaints are a couple years old. If it is happening, my guess would be that authorization might have been given via the fine print agreements with the customer’s bank and/or credit cards. Either way, the simple way to avoid this alleged problem would just be to pay your darn bill, right?
But there is a silver lining…
Despite all the rants about FIA credit cards, there are some positives worth pointing out:
- The Fidelity cards (for Fidelity account holders) offer a high 2% cash back reward on all purchases and jeffysdad, a Centurion Member of the forum, mentioned “Whenever I call customer service during regular business hours I get to speak to someone in the United States right away.” Because Fidelity is a respected brokerage firm and their reputation is on the line, you can bet they crack the whip on FIA to ensure there’s a superior level of customer service.
- In addition to the card above, there are others with good rewards, too. For example, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Visa Signature does not use those ugly WorldPoints and instead gives straight cash back.
Conclusion? An FIA credit card isn’t always a bad thing. You just need to be aware of the drawbacks which plague many of them.
This article was written or last updated April 14, 2015